Saturday, June 27, 2015
Anna Karenina Discussion I

Because we all enjoyed the mowing...a Russian scythe!

A few of our readers' thoughts:

We read the novel Anna Karenina rather than the novel Konstantin Levin because of marketing...Anna has sex appeal.  Levin is a heavier, darker figure.

Kitty and Levin are a delicate Vermeer painting, while the story of Anna and Vronsky is painted in broad brushstrokes of bright red.  Can anyone suggest a specific painter?

Anna's story is romantic rather than sexy.  (Some readers would suggest checking out the passage on the paper-knife, Part One, Chapter 29, for a counter-argument!)

Why does Vronsky fall so hard for Anna after the many women he's already known?  One reader suggests it's just chemistry!

Playing by the rules is something both Anna and Levin have difficulty with.

A favorite remark:  Anna is not a very strategic adult!

Anna didn't have an adolescence...we will learn more about this later.

Falling in love is a kind of temporary insanity.

Varenka gives Kitty a new way to express herself.  Varenka serves the purpose for Kitty that the farm and peasants serve for Levin:  they both help them learn and grow.

Which paper-knife, below, would Anna have chosen?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dancing the Quadrille and Mazurka

In Part I, Chapter 23, Kitty dances several waltzes and the first quadrille with Vronsky, and spends much of the chapter hoping that Vronsky will ask her to dance the mazurka at the end of the evening. The waltz is still familiar to most people, but the quadrille and mazurka are not as well known.

According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the quadrille is a dance performed by four couples in a square formation and features several intertwining figures.

The mazurka is best known as a Polish dance, and is often accompanied by bagpipes or the accordion, though some Russian composers also composed mazurkas for solo piano performance. The mazurka is a versatile dance, which can be performed by groups of 4 or 8 couples, or by a single couple, and while it is characterized by stamping feet and clicking heels, it is highly improvisatory. The mazurka features prominently in the ballets Swan Lake and Coppelia, as well as in several Russian novels, including Anna Karenina and War and Peace. An example from Coppelia is below.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Extended Reading Guide for Anna Karenina

Greetings! I hope everyone is enjoying Anna Karenina so far and making use of our fabulous reading guide!

We now have available an extended reading guide for anyone who would like to have a little more context with regard to Tolstoy's life and the events taking place within the work. The extended guide gleans articles from various literature reference works that pertain specifically to Anna Karenina. But, beware – the guide contains heavy spoilers. So, if you don't want to know the end of the novel, tread lightly!

To view the mighty tome, click on the following link:

You can also print out your own copy or create a PDF. Also, feel free to recommend any content or aspects relevant to Anna, and we'll add them to the guide. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tolstoy Scholar Elizabeth Blake

It was great to hear Elizabeth Blake's lecture last night entitled Falling in and out of Love with Anna Karenina.  Many thanks to her for giving us much to think about, and to all those who attended and asked thoughtful questions.  I scribbled lots of notes, and hope that others who were present can add what they learned by commenting below.  (And I couldn't resist these lovely photos from the website of the State Museum of Tolstoy's estate at Yasnaya Polyana.)

Yasnaya Polyana

  • The first thing I learned from Dr Blake is that I have never pronounced the author's name correctly. She says tol-STOY, with emphasis on the second syllable.  I plan to practice.
  • Levin is considered the 2nd protagonist of the novel, and a double for Tolstoy himself.
  • Tolstoy was never banned by the Soviets, unlike Dostoevsky and others.
  • There are subtle ways throughout the novel in which Tolstoy's affection towards Anna seems to shift, and in which he communicates this to the reader:
    •  In Love:  Anna's masses of dark curls are her own, whereas Kitty and Dolly use artificial hair extensions.  (Kitty's father comments on this when trying to pat Kitty on the head.)  
    • Out of Love:  Anna is from St Petersburg, where the society is vacuous, rather than Moscow, where the true nobility of Russia resides.
  • Other examples? Please comment below and add your thoughts!

Monday, June 1, 2015

In Part One, Chapter 9 Levin meets Kitty while ice skating " the Zoological and skating lake...."  I wasn't able to find a skating lake in Moscow's current Zoo online, at least not according to Google.  But I did find this postcard from a time period not long after the novel was published in 1877.
Ice Skating on Chistye Prudy, 1910
Chistye Prudy, by the way, means clean ponds, but refers to a specific pond that was once used as a dump but was cleaned up in the 18th century.  I like this photo nevertheless!

Red Square